Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Man With a Big Heart

Mark and I met a travel guide when we were trekking; Michael Tamang. A couple of days ago he invited me to his house to have dinner and meet his family; his wife Sabina, his 3 months old son Milson (whom I was about to kidnap because he was the cutest baby ever) and his 2 adopted children; an 8-yr old girl, Santhi, from the Terai and a 14-yr old girl, Rita, from the eastern part of Nepal. He came across these when he was traveling as a guide.
He went back to the Terai to spend 3 days with Santhi's family consisting of 9 children and their parents who didn't have enough food to eat every day. Apart from being poor and malnourished, Michael said that they were very dirty, the clothes were dirty and the children didn't speak any language other than their own tribal language. And it almost goes without saying that they were all illiterate, too. He proposed to the parents the adoption of one of the children and when I asked how he made the choice among 9 children, he said that during his stay the girl with whom he made a connection, was Santhi. She is now a happy little girl, goes to Grade 1 and has learned to write both Nepali and English letters - even small sentences as well as writing the numbers from 1-100 in both languages as well. She hasn't been back to her village yet, but Michael has been back to show her parents pictures of her and to let them know that she is doing well. He said that the whole village cried of happiness for Santhi; to see that she was doing so well.

It was more or less the same story with Rita. She came from an equally poor family but with "only" 3 children. The whole family were working next to the road, cutting granite stones - a tough job for anyone, and especially for children who do not have the means to eat every day. Again, he spent time with the family and made a connection with Rita whom he adopted. She is now in her first year of high school.

Michael, himself, comes from a poor family who suffered particularly after his father left the family (when Michael was 8) to marry another woman. His mother struggled to feed him and his sister, but they both were able to attend school. I felt really bad when we were discussing Santhi and Rita's distance to school, 15 and 30 min. respectively and I said that I had had to take a bus 45 min each way the first year of my schooling and that my parents had contacted the municipality to move me to the school much closer to us (5 min by car). Michael said: "Yes, I had to walk 2 hrs to school each way..." He paid for his college degree by earning money as a porter and he then learned English so that he could become a guide. A trekking guide earns approx. 40% more than the porters.

He lives south-east of Kathmandu center in a lovely house. It's big and spacious and very clean, neat and tidy. There are 2 other families in the building and they all share the big room at the top that can be used for any of their guests visiting. There's a separate very clean bathroom next to it and a big rooftop terrace. He lives on the ground floor and has a little garden where he grows potatoes, onion, garlic, ginger and there's an orange tree as well. He also has a little compost area where he dumps all biodegradables and there's a separate bin for plastic and other garbage. It's a very progressive behavior in a country that doesn't even have an organized garbage disposal system.
Everywhere there's litter - plastic wrappers, broken glass, plastic bags, newspapers, etc. And it is a big problem especially in the villages where there's no collection system let alone bins. VIN has set up about 30 bins in the Jitpurphedi area but people don't really use them consistently. Often the trash is lying scattered AROUND the bin instead of inside it. The next challenge occurs if the bin would ever be full - nobody takes responsibility to burn it so it will eventually overflow and end up around the bin and in the village. We saw the same problem in the Everest region.                      

Next year it is Nepal Tourism year and Michael hopes to get some good trekking business which will allow him to slowly retire and to start doing what his heart really wants to do; set up a home for adopted children / an orphanage. The reason is that he doesn't trust orphanage managers in general so he wants to set up his own so that he knows that the support will go to the children and not anyone else. His house is big enough that he can house another couple of children, but then he will need a bigger location.
He has made a 'deal' with the children that after they finish their college degree they "owe" him 2 years - either helping out at the orphanage or by monetary contributions if they find a job. In this way, they will be paying it forward to the other children.
I was very touched by this man - he has an enormous heart for the suffering people of his country. He is by no means rich but probably richer than the average Nepalese. However, he doesn't want this wealth for himself. He wants Nepal to develop, to crawl away from the position of being one of the poorest countries in the world and a damn good place to start is to make sure that the basic needs of children will be met, that they will get an education and, thus, have chance to change things in Nepal for the better. A truly inspiring man...A man with a big heart beating for Nepal...

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful thing to do after you retire. That is something I would have loved to do if my life had not changed meeting my wonderful Mike.
    I would love to help out with anything you can bring back with you. We will talk and see what I can offer. You are having a amazing experience Ann I adore and love you to bits you are much a wonderful selfless women and you are exactly what I wanted Mark to have by his side for the rest of his life. I have not heard much from Mark but I know he is counting the minuites until your return. I think you will ready for the beuty parlour some TLC good food and wine, sounds so greedy when you think of them children in Nepal. Love you bunches sweetheart, can't wait to be with you soon. Loving you lots.xxxxx